By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Sleeping on the job is rarely acceptable, unless that job is to raise awareness for South Australians experiencing homelessness.
That’s exactly what RAA General Manager for Government and Public Policy Jayne Flaherty set out to achieve as part of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, a fundraiser run by St Vincent de Paul Society to support Australians facing poverty and homelessness.
Sheltered by cardboard boxes and rugged up in a sleeping bag, Ms Flaherty braved the cold during a night in an Adelaide car park.
“I had thermals on and even a pillow, which is much more than others have, and it was still incredibly freezing cold and uncomfortable,” she said.
Doing it tough
There are nearly this many people in South Australia experiencing homelessness.
While the cold gradually numbs some of the pain and discomfort that comes from sleeping on hard concrete, getting through the night is as much of a mental struggle as it is a physical struggle.
“You’re always on guard and your mind can’t rest,” Ms Flaherty said.
“That’s when the hopelessness sinks in and really hits home; when you hear garbage trucks early in the morning and workers pulling into the car park to start their day.”
This year, Vinnies CEO Sleepout beat its $7 million target, raising nearly $8 million nation-wide. Money raised helps provide people experiencing homelessness with vital access to food and accommodation. Funds can also provide education, counselling, employment and health services to help people overcome poverty in the long term.
“Events like Vinnies CEO Sleepout do more than just raise money; they raise awareness and call on people to help make a change,” Ms Flaherty said.
Since its inception in 2006, more than 6000 leaders like Ms Flaherty, have participated in the event held on one of the longest and coldest nights of the year.
Making an impact
In 2018, Vinnes CEO Sleepout raised this much across Australia in the fight against homelessness. The generous donations meant 689,819 beds were given and 1,590,554 meals offered to Australians in need.